I was particularly stoked when I woke up on the morning of Day 5, for the next few days was to be heavy on sights. We were moving to the Myvatn, an area known for its volcanic activities and landscapes.
Pari made us ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast to fill our stomachs before heading to our first destination of the day, the heavenly Godafoss, or God of Falls. This waterfall is barely an hour’s drive away from Akureyri, and just a short distance off Route 1.
Once you roll into the car park, you could hear the tumbling of the falls already, giving you a sense of anticipation of what was to come.
We must have spent more than an hour just gazing into the waterfalls and witnessing the wonders of Nature.
The next hour saw us driving to what was to be one of our favorite spots of Iceland, a cave known as Grjotagta, filled with geothermal water that used to be a popular bathing spot among locals till it became privatized.
The water also became too hot for bathing over the last few years apparently, reaching more than 40 degress celsius I believe.
Once you enter the cave, you can feel something magical about the interior, one of comfortable silence, yet with immense mystery.
It was a pretty surreal to hear just our breathing, with the mist from the hot water enveloping our faces, and hearing the occasional dripping of water.
Finding the cave was pretty straightforward, though you shouldn’t use google maps as for some reason it will direct you to somewhere else.
If you are coming in from the West, simply continue on Route 1 till you pass the small town of Reykjahlio, and following a short drive further east you should see a sign directing you to turn right to Grjotagja (Route 860). You should see a carpark at the end of the road and the cave would be right in front.
There’s actually 3 entrances to the cave as far as I know-the most common two is right in front of the carpark where most people would go. However, on the left is another entrance to a more quiet part of the cave which I saw two tourists secretly bathing there (dressed of course) so perhaps the water isn’t as hot there as the other parts.
Be careful climbing down to prevent falling into the hot water, though it won’t kill you it will likely give you a rude shock.
Once we were satisfied, we proceeded to our last stop for the day, the now dormant volcano Hverfjall, which required a 20-30 minute hike up to the crater.
If you look hard enough, the thin, straight line is the path up to the summit.
We snapped a quick picture at the 3/4 mark, gazing at the little white car at the bottom, our original starting point.
It was honestly nice to be able to stretch our legs, plus the weather was nice and crisp, giving us slight impetus to our step. It was also pretty romantic to stop and check each others’ condition always, and though we were gassed at certain points, that was down to our fitness more than anything else. As a whole this walk is manageable for almost all ages.
Once you reach the summit, you can be treated with some nice views on the top.
As we drove off after our hike, we saw two hikers taking a stroll together, hand in hand. Really nice.
Accommodation options in the Myvatn area are rather limited, but we found a surprisingly clean and cosy cabin in Vogafjos Guesthouse.
My only regret was booking the accommodation on a non-refundable rate way too early. I learned a valuable lesson-generally book at a higher price first but with a free cancellation option so you can cancel and re-book when prices drop. I guess we all learn at some point.
You check in at Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe first, and the guesthouse is located across the road. A walk takes around 3 minutes.
The only drawback of the cabin was the razor thin walls, since you could practically hear what your neighbor is doing, so fingers crossed that he or she wouldn’t be doing anything funny at night if you’re a light sleeper like me.
The best part of Vogafjos was definitely the food, with the ingredients the freshest we tasted so far and likely from either the working farm itself or the surroundings.
The original plan was to have pizza at a local joint near the guesthouse, but Pari, always alert when it comes to food, made a wise decision in eating at Vogafjos Cafe first, “in case if it’s good, we can come again tomorrow”, in her own words.
Turned out she was spot on because from our first bite of the food we knew we were coming back.
The Icelandic Lamb Stew was thick with flavor and came with huge chunks of lamb meat, mixed with an equally generous portion of potatoes and carrots. The home baked Geysir bread was the perfect pairing, so good you could eat it as it is, lightly spread with some Icelandic butter, or dipped in the broth.
♦ Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe – 660 Myvatn, opposite Vogafjos Guesthouse♦
The Lamb Slices were well marinated, grilled to perfection with the meat tender and succulent, without the strong gamey smell that you might associate lamb with.
There’s also fish and beef on the menu if lamb isn’t your thing. We tried the Arctic Char as well and it was amazingly fresh, and we heard some good things about their beef burger as well.
Prices were surprisingly decent, considering there weren’t much dining options around. Service was terrific as well, with the servers always checking to make sure everything was in order. We truly had a memorable time.
Don’t miss this place, for I think it is likely the best restaurant you’ll find along the Ring Road.
Following dinner we visited Jarobodin Nature Baths, a 10 minute drive away from our Guesthouse. Do remember to buy the tickets from Vogafjos directly since there’s a discount if you do so. It’ll cost you only 2,880 ISK per person.
Icelanders are quite particular about conduct in the baths so do respect their rules at all times.
You should see this sign regularly, but simply put, the rules to follow are:
- Put all your stuff in the locker
- Bring your own towel and bathing suit
- Strip naked and shower the highlighted parts with the soap provided
- Enter the baths (please remember to put on your bathing suit before you do because I nearly forgot)
- Towel dry before you head back to the lockers
It was our first experience in the nature baths of Iceland and unfortunately I didn’t manage to capture any photos as I left my phone in the car. I felt the water at Jarobodin Nature Baths wasn’t hot enough, plus the bathrooms weren’t exactly the cleanest. Still, we did manage to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights and the therapeutic effect of the water allowed us to have a good sleep that night.
We started the next day with a fantastic buffet breakfast at Vogafjos (included in the room rate). While it may appear to be the typical Icelandic breakfast served to tourists, the quality and freshness is unreal. Don’t miss the smoked trout and the home baked bread-my personal favorites. If drinking milk straight from the source is your thing, you can try that too ( I’m serious).
You can see the milking of the cows at selected times in the morning and the evening, as you are eating your meals. Quite an interesting concept, though out of respect for the animals we sat a distance away.
Once we had our fill, we proceeded to our first stop of the day, the Viti Crater. The unique thing was that it was filled with floodwater at the rim, which made me wonder if it was possible to take a dip and how hot the water would be.
Any hopes of doing this was automatically dashed by the prevailing weather conditions that morning.
We heard plenty of stories on how strong Icelandic winds were and this was the first time we witnessed its sheer power. I could feel my feet being moved by the strong winds and at certain points I was even afraid we might be blown off the peak of the crater (no mean feat considering we both stuffed ourselves silly at the breakfast buffet less than an hour ago, adding to our ballooning weight). If you are there and the winds are strong, make sure you hold on to your partner tight!
You can hear the howling winds in the video (pardon me speaking in my native tongue at the end, basically telling Pari to flee before we were really blown off) to give you an idea what I’m talking about.
Despite the slightly threatening encounter, we both agreed that the view on top of the crater was nothing short of magnificent. If only we had being able to spend a little more time on top.
The next destination was the mudpots at Hverarondor Hverir. If you enjoy the smell of sulphur and fascinated by volcanic landscapes, this is the place for you.
Geothermal activity is at its best here, with place looking like a scene from The Martian.
It was quite a surreal experience just stepping foot on the volcanic plains. The only drawback was the incredibly sticky mud that refused to come off, so either wear some old shoes which you can dump right after or you can expect to be washing yours (and your partner’s) shoes back at the lodging, like I did.
To me, Myvatn seems the kind of place where you need at least a day to cover all the sights, yet anything more may seem too much. Unfortunately, due to its location and surroundings, you would probably need a long drive to reach the next town, meaning it might be tough to find decent accommodation for a while once you leave the area. That being said, if you’re the type that enjoys hiking or taking long walks, I think there are several good tracks that would satisfy you. If anything, stay just for the wonderful food at Vogafjos Cafe itself. The quality is worth making the trip in itself.